Jacobean is the term used for describing all types of furniture constructed in medieval England during the reign of King James to the rule of King James II. Jacobean furniture had various structures and designs. However, most furniture items built during the Jacobean Era were heavy and uncomfortable. Oak and pine were the two main types of wood used in the construction of Jacobean furniture. Oak was well suited for the heavy and large furniture items. It was also resistant to wood worms and several other insects. This made it a good choice for the robust furniture of the Jacobean period.
Ash and maple were also used at times in Jacobean furniture due to their lower cost. Upholstering materials used in the furniture were of very fine quality. These materials varied and were often silk, linen or wool. During the later part of the Jacobean period, the style of furniture began to change. Walnut was used instead of Oak.
Cane was also used for making the new style of furniture. Colonial Americans copied the earlier styles of Jacobean furniture and it was popular in the US as “Early American” furniture. Jacobean furniture had a classic look and robust structure due to which they are still very popular in many auction rooms.
Characteristics of Jacobean furniture:
1. They were massive in size.
2. The method of construction was very simple.
3. The lines on the furniture were square or rectangle.
4. Spiral turnings were also very popular.
5. The tables were rectangular in shape but circular tables were also introduced during the later stages of the Jacobean Period.
Chairs were regarded as status symbols and were reserved for the head of the household. The chairs were of different models and with passage of time, armless chairs were introduced.
Generally, a typical household contained only two chairs, one each for the head of the house and his wife. Most people sat on stools and benches during the Jacobean period. In addition to chairs, Jacobean furniture consisted of dining tables, bible boxes, cupboards, chests, benches, joint stools, back stools, mirror frames and tables. The chests and bible boxes were very easy to make but were made very elegantly.
The sitting room was well-maintained as it was used for displaying the furniture to guests. A set of expensive furniture also served as a status symbol. The Jacobean furniture had elegant look due to the detailed carving and designs in the woodwork. In the initial stages, furniture items were only constructed in square or rectangle shapes. But with the passage of time, sleek and elegant shapes such as ovals, circles, columns etc. were also used. The combinations of both classic and contemporary styles were found in the same piece of furniture in later stages of the era.
However, Jacobean furniture gradually started to disappear from furniture houses in England by the end of the Jacobean and Elizabethan eras. They were replaced by modern furniture in English households during Renaissance period.